Special types of dogs -- like guardian angels with four legs -- are sometimes charged with watching over a human companion who is prone to having seizures. These protective pooches can come in a variety of breeds and sizes. Some are formally trained, while others seem to have an innate ability for this type of service work. No fancy title is bestowed on them; they are typically called simply “seizure dogs.”
For reasons not fully understood, some dogs have the uncanny ability to sense when a seizure is about to happen. Theories are generally used to explain how this works. Small changes in facial expressions, for example, might alert a dog that his companion is going to have a seizure. Other theories suggest that seizure dogs can pick up on changes in a person's scent or the general “energy” in the air before a seizure occurs.
In the broadest sense, a seizure dog is one that knows how to react when someone is having a seizure, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. Some dogs are further defined as either predicting or responding to seizures. There is some debate over whether it's possible to teach a dog how to detect a seizure. In any event, seizure dogs have some pretty important tasks they are expected to perform.
A seizure dog is not expected to dial 911 with his paws. Even so, he has an arsenal of life-protecting skills at his command. He can be trained to press a lever or some other device to activate an alert. He might bark out a warning so family members are called into action. A seizure dog might even use his own body to break his companion's fall or to nudge her into a safe area once a seizure begins.
The skills of seizure dogs make them highly sought-after, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. That is just one reason why a healthy dose of caution should be used when looking to purchase or train a dog to specialize in predicting seizures. As always, work with reputable trainers or service dog organizations to help ensure the best results. People who already have dogs that know how to predict or respond to seizures should count their blessings. Surely, they have found their very own angel in disguise.
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